Ecommerce Growth: Implications for Real Estate

Extract from JLL’s Redefining Retail Places

In James Brown’s recent article, ‘From zero to 3 billion – global ecommerce goes mainstream’, he discusses how Internet retailing has advanced at a global level over the last 20 years, and how the growth of ecommerce is reshaping the Global Retail landscape. As at a global level, across EMEA there is a broad spectrum of e-commerce markets, from the relatively mature to the embryonic.


Mature E-commerce Markets

Currently, within Europe, the ‘big three’ markets account of c70% of total online sales; the UK generates €48 billion in sales, Germany €39 billion, and France €25 billion.

These markets, in addition to the Nordic countries, which have very high broadband penetration rates, make up the most mature ecommerce markets in EMEA. Any growth in these countries’ total retail markets tends to come from online.

The UK is undoubtedly the region’s ecommerce leader, with between 10 and 15% of total retail online (depending on which source you believe), but with scope for significant further growth.

This could come particularly from the food sector, where currently below 5% is online, albeit this is still far above the rest of the EU and even the US. Tesco, Europe’s third-biggest online retailer, has already opened six “dark stores” around London, simply to handle home-delivery orders.

In developed e-commerce markets, online retail sales typically account for between 5% and 15% of total retail spending, and per capita online spending is relatively high. As noted in JLL’s Global Retail Logistics Reports, these developed markets generally share a number of attributes:

  • High rates of internet and mobile broadband usage
  • Low fixed and mobile broadband costs
  • A willingness amongst internet users to purchase online
  • A regulatory infrastructure that supports online purchasing
  • A well-developed logistics infrastructure
  • Mature ‘bricks and mortar’ retail markets, that make it difficult for retailers to expand sales significantly by developing their store networks, but which offer multi-channel retailers opportunities to secure synergies between their online channels and their store portfolio

Growth E-commerce Markets

There are several retail markets in EMEA that have great growth potential for e-commerce, due to current low levels of adoption and sheer market size, but there are clearly challenges around online consumer behaviour, lower technology adoption rates and logistics in these markets.

Russia, Turkey and UAE, in particular, currently lag behind developed markets in terms of their online sales, but are predicted to see strong growth in the medium term.

In Russia, where online sales represent just 2% of the retail market, infrastructure and cumbersome planning rules have inhibited the growth of the necessary warehousing to support e-commerce.

In Turkey and the UAE, physical retail is still relatively undeveloped in remote areas; it is possible that with growing consumer demand, we might see online retail mature ahead of the provision of physical retail space in these locations. In all these markets, it is likely that city rather than national e-commerce markets will be the norm.

In addition to these relatively untapped markets, there are a number of more mature physical retail markets, such as the Netherlands, Ireland and Italy, which currently have low levels of online spend per capita, and that therefore have scope for e-commerce growth.

Emerging E-commerce Markets

In Sub-Saharan Africa, there are several emerging, embryonic e-commerce markets, albeit with great growth potential. According to McKinsey, more than 50% of urban Africans access the Internet regularly and over 55% own Internet-capable mobile devices.

As the physical retail sector in general is limited in these markets (in Lagos there are two malls serving 20 million people) the potential for retailers to develop e-commerce capabilities, particularly via mobile devices, is real and significant. In fact, Jumia, the Nigerian etailer, has spotted the opportunity, and owns over 500 delivery automobiles, more than UPS, FedEx and DHL.

Implications for Retailers

Cross-border retailing is growing rapidly throughout EMEA, as multi-channel retailers look to overseas markets to drive revenue growth. Retailers may use ecommerce to expand their geographical coverage before committing to a network of new stores in foreign markets.

As always it is about getting the balance right between the different channels, testing different strategies and adapting them to specific markets. But retailers certainly need to have an awareness of the nuances and variances in channel usage, online propensity to shop and therefore e-commerce growth potential across the EMEA retail markets and beyond.

Redefining Retail Places: for further information on trends influencing the retail landscape

Global: Discover how the growth in ecommerce is influencing retail real estate at a Global level

Asia Pacific: Discover how ecommerce and Alibaba is changing retail in China

United States: Discover how department store, Macy’s, is using ecommerce to trump Amazon

Colin Burnet
is a Director in JLL’s European Retail Research team. Follow JLL Europe Retail on Twitter.